Super Bowl Ad Spend Totaled $1.84B over 20 Years, Rates Quadrupled

January 23, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Media & Entertainment | Television

Super Bowl XLII is not just about football, with the TV commercials to be shown during the game as much the subject of anticipation and speculation. No wonder, then, that in the past 20 years Super Bowl ads has translated into $1.84 billion of network sales, from over 200 different advertisers, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Below, the findings released by TNS MI. 

Top Five Super Bowl Advertisers

The top five Super Bowl advertisers of the past 20 years (1988-2007) have spent $659 million on advertising during the game, accounting for 36% of total advertising dollars spent in the game.

Anheuser Busch and Pepsico, which have appeared in every game during this period, lead the pack, followed by General Motors, Time Warner and Walt Disney.


Each year, about 62% of the network TV ad money invested in the game comes from incumbent marketers who ran commercials the previous year.

“While that’s a very high retention rate, it’s actually lower than the comparable rate for two other showcase TV events. Over the past 10 years, the average dollar retention rate has been 75% for the Academy Awards and 67% for the World Series,” said Jon Swallen, SVP, Research at TNS Media Intelligence.

The Price of Advertising

The cost of an advertisement in the Super Bowl has nearly quadrupled in the past 20 years. After reaching $2.5 million in 2006 for a 30-second unit, the price fell back last year to just under $2.4 million.

For the 2008 game, Fox is reportedly seeking $2.7 million for each 30-second spot.


Compared with the average cost of commercial time on primetime network programming during the first quarter, Super Bowl spots are 17-18 times more expensive. This premium has held steady in recent years.

First-Time Advertisers

In recent years, the number of first-time Super Bowl advertisers has been on the rise.


On the one hand, that indicates fewer marketers’ returning to the game, potentially a sign of weakness. On the other hand, new advertisers have eagerly filled the voids.

In short, the Super Bowl retains its attractiveness to marketers, who are willing to pay the price for access to advertising’s biggest stage and an audience of engaged viewers.

More Advertising, More Clutter

Over the past 10 years, the volume of commercial time in the game has been edging upward even as the price of advertising has become more expensive.


The CBS telecast of the 2007 Super Bowl contained over 43 minutes of network ads, including paying sponsors, commercial messages from the NFL, plus “house ads” aired by CBS to promote its own programming.

The Top Super Bowl Advertising Category – Not What You Think

The popular perception is that beer, soft drinks and autos are the prime ad categories, given their annual presence in the game.

Actually, the perennial leader is promotional advertising from the network itself. In a typical Super Bowl, 15-20% of all commercial time is a plug by the network for its own programming. In 2007, the value of this air time exceeded $46 million.


“The Super Bowl offers the host network an attractive platform to promote its upcoming programming and try to build an audience,” added Swallen. “In deciding how much ad time to keep for itself, the network has to assess the trade-off between giving up current revenue in the game versus building future revenue from its other programming.”

How Big Is the Super Bowl vs. Other Sporting Events?

The Major League Baseball’s World Series and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship are two other high-profile sporting events that attract significant interest from TV advertisers.

The World Series is four to seven games. March Madness peaks with the semi-finals and championship on its final weekend, a total of three games. The Super Bowl is a single telecast.

In recent years, the Super Bowl and World Series have been running neck-and-neck in total ad spending.


In 2007, for the first time, the collegians surpassed the pros as the final weekend of the men’s tournament generated $168.4 million in network TV ad spending.

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